By James Scott, CEO & Founder of Thrive.app.
The pandemic created an unprecedented employee experience for many industries: That of a workforce that was suddenly dispersed, remote, and disconnected.
But for those in logistics, this type of working environment was already the norm. Employees in logistics, storage and distribution are used to performing their essential functions from warehouses, lorries, and even while on the road.
What’s more, the logistics industry boomed during a time when many businesses struggled to know how to continue operations during lockdown. In fact, logistics saw the biggest demand for staffing during the pandemic, on top of existing challenges like supply chain disruptions, ongoing worker shortages, Brexit impacts, and increased volume.
COVID-19 compounded and magnified these pressures, causing much scrutiny of the industry (both internally and externally) that has started to compel major change within with regards to everything from processes to employee engagement.
Prioritising Employee Engagement in 2021
Employee engagement is all about bringing together how satisfied and happy employees are at work with how productive they are. But with so many changes occurring in the workplace that started last year and have continued well into 2021, it can be difficult to bring those two metrics into alignment.
However, 55% of businesses are planning to make it a priority in 2021. With 44% of employees reporting that they don’t feel connected to their peers because 50% aren’t working in their usual environment, it’s time for industries to see what they can borrow from an industry familiar with spread-out employees: the logistics industry.
Four things other industries can learn from logistics companies about engagement, communication & connection
Emphasis on health & well-being
Increased stress (physical, mental and emotional) and a heavy workload can decrease motivation and increase health-related issues. And given that the logistics industry suffers from high turnover, it was imperative that they make necessary adjustments to safeguard the health and well-being of employees.
A post from the University of Manchester addressed the need for looking after the physical and mental health of the transport and logistics workforce, for whom the average age is 57 and health is below average.
For employees who are isolated from colleagues due to a remote work situation, ensuring they are able to access robust ways to communicate with others and to receive work-related information and communication is vitally important not only for business continuity, but for employee wellbeing too. Provide means for discussions to occur that are about personal needs relative to the job and otherwise, not just about operational and performance-related issues.
For managers and others in leadership roles, they need to be listening to what employees are reporting about their mental and physical health needs and gather that feedback in a way that makes it actionable.
Because the logistics sector already feels the pains of high costs due to worker injuries and the resulting costs declines in productivity, establishing world-class safety practices is a definite priority.
But this need doesn’t stop at the logistics sector. COVID-19 and its variants have required that all workplaces create greater urgency around safety.
It is important to establish clear safety guidelines in the workplace and make sure they’re accessible by every employee everywhere on any device. Target safety news to specific employees, roles and locations – not all safety requirements or recommendations will be appropriate for every job function.
Empowering employees with technology & development
A shift to a goal- and personal development-oriented culture — versus a strictly operational one — is another adjustment being made across many logistics companies. That’s because training and learning opportunities help employees feel valued and make them want to stick around.
Likewise, empowering employees to not just take charge of their career path, but to have more control over self-managing their everyday roles using technology and make certain decisions shows them they are trusted.
Show employees they are valued by making investments in technology, microlearning and training that fit their roles and actually promote growth (versus requiring them to figure out how to fit in required training). Invest in technology (such as an employee app) that allows employees to access everything from company policies and benefits information to shift schedules. This can also be a good place to provide career and personal development opportunities that can be accessed from mobile devices during times that are convenient for the employees.
Creating an uplifting culture
Implement measures that reinforce the importance of every individual employee’s skills, experience and perspectives to solving the big issues and challenges to raise the collective morale.
Try and facilitate positive feedback channels that employees can use to give each other kudos and celebrate successes, no matter how big or small. Doing regular employee surveys can help you to learn what sorts of rewards will most motivate them: For example, more benefits or a pay rise? Better work/life balance or a pay rise?
All of the above – prioritising health and safety, along with empowering employees – goes into the development of an engaged workforce with a strong company culture.